Dunkirk appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this 4K UHD disc - most of the time. The filmmakers shot much of the movie with IMAX cameras, and that used a ratio around 1.43:1.
On the 4K, we see the IMAX shots at the 1.78:1 ratio I mentioned. The rest of the film used a 2.20:1 frame.
While prior Christopher Nolan flicks like Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar opted for IMAX material less than half the time, Dunkirk jacked up the footage to about 75 percent of their length. This made Dunkirk the first Nolan movie to “go IMAX” the vast majority of the time.
Indeed, excluding the opening studio credits, the first 17:30 of Dunkirk used the 1.78:1 frame, and this choice to feature IMAX footage caused a terrific impact on picture quality. I expect Nolan films to look great, but Dunkirk’s use of 65mm IMAX meant it fared exceedingly well.
It helped that the 2.20:1 material also featured 65mm film, so Dunkirk didn’t suffer from any obvious degradation when it shifted between ratios. Sharpness remained top-notch from beginning to end, as the movie boasted tight, accurate visuals.
I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. The image also lacked any forms of print flaws.
No one would expect a war film like Dunkirk to bring us a broad palette, and it hues came with the anticipated restrictions. Most of the flick opted for teal, with some orange tosses in mainly during shots on Mr. Dawson’s boat. Limited as the colors seemed, the disc delivered them with nice range and clarity.
Blacks appeared deep and dense, and shadows showed fine clarity and smoothness. This became an excellent visual presentation.
In addition, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Dunkirk excelled, as the combat situations allowed for a great deal of active information. Obviously the battles fared best, as gunfire, aircraft, boats, bombs and other elements filled the room in a lively manner.
Quieter scenes worked well, too, as they offered an engulfing sense of environment. Music displayed nice stereo presence and used the back speakers for a little boost as well.
Audio quality seemed terrific, with music that appeared full and rich. Speech came across as natural and concise as well.
Of course, effects dominated, and those offered top-notch reproduction. I noticed clean highs with no distortion along with deep, firm bass. All of this combined for a stellar sonic experience.
How does the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Audio remains identical, as both releases sport the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack.
Visuals become a different story, as the movie’s 65mm photography takes advantage of 4K’s potential. This means an image with greater definition as well as superior contrast and bolder hues. The Blu-ray looks terrific but the 4K outdoes it.
None of the extras show up on the 4K disc, but the package provides bonus Blu-rays. The first platter contains just the movie, so all the set’s extras appear on Blu-ray Two.
There we get featurettes under five connected: “Creation” (22:19), “Land” (16:39), “Air” (18:30), “Sea” (36:57) and “Conclusion” (15:19). All told, these cover one hour, 49 minutes, 46 seconds.
Across these, we find comments from writer/director Christopher Nolan, stunt coordinator Tom Struthers, producer Emma Thomas, historical consultant James Levine, editor Lee Smith, sailboat captain Ivan Cornell, veterans Robert Halliday, Arthur Taylor, and Vic Viner, production designer Nathan Crowley, director of photography Hoyte Van Hoytema, Memorial du Souvenir VP Yves Janssen, Port of Dunkirk CEO Stephane Raison, executive producer Jake Myers, first AD Nilo Otero, Dunkirk Mayor Patrice Vergriete, associate editor John Lee, special effects supervisors Scott Fisher and Paul Corbould, special effects assistant supervisor Ian Corbould, visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, marine coordinator Neil Andrea, scenic artist Ed Strang, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, ager/dyer Jack Taggart, pilot Craig Hosking, aerial DP Hans Bjerno, aerial engineer Andy McCluskie, Edge coordinator Dean Bailey, IMAX camera technician Scott C. Smith, sound mixer Mark Weingarten, Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Vice Commodore Simon Palmer, and actors Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynnn-Carney, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, and Mark Rylance.
The programs start with a general overview of the facts behind the story and attempts to maintain accuracy. From there it goes into script, sets and locations, photography and working with IMAX cameras, various effects, stunts/action, costumes, ships and planes, audio and music, and final thoughts.
My only complaint about these featurettes stems from their tone, as they tend toward lots of praise and many reminders how authentic the entire production is. This feels awfully self-congratulatory and gets a bit old.
Still, with nearly two hours at their disposal, the clips offer a lot of good information, as the segments dig into all the challenges well. I’d prefer less self-praise, but the shows still provide a pretty engaging take on the movie’s creation.
Though I don’t count Dunkirk among Christopher Nolan’s best films, that’s a reflection on his stellar filmography more than anything else. Dunkirk explores the wartime events with drama and passion, factors that make it a dynamic journey. The 4K UHD boasts excellent picture and audio along with a largely effective collection of featurettes. Dunkirk winds up as a fine war movie, and the 4K turns into the definitive way to see it on home video.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of DUNKIRK